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Childhood obesity and how to help your child

**What is Obesity?** Generally speaking, a person is considered “obese” when the amount of fat stored in his body endangers his health. The Organization for Economic and cooperative development, has collected recent data on obesity around the world. It’s an issue that many countries are dealing with:

: “Percentage of Population (over 15 years of age) who are obese U.S.A. – 30.6% Mexico – 24.2% U.K. – 22.4% Australia – 21.7% New Zealand – 17% Canada – 14.9% Germany – 12.9% France – 9.4% In other words, almost 1 in 3 Americans and roughly 1 in 5 Australians are so grossly overweight and have health problems because of it.”

What causes obesity:
lack of access to healthy food
diets high in fat and calories
junk food

It is estimated that obesity has increased to over 30% in American adults and children. Unfortunately, a child who is overweight typically carries the problem into adulthood.

Children who are overweight are more likely to endure bullying, have low self-esteem, experience stress, have peer difficulties, suffer from depression and anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea and so on.* CDC.GOV

It is very important that parents instill healthy habits during the childhood years. This is a delicate balance because over focusing on a child’s weight, which can lead to eating disorders and lowered self-esteem. Parents have to normalize what it means to be healthy. We can no longer afford to look at the chubby baby as being something to strive for. It’s important to start in childhood and focus on healthy, nutritiously dense food and eating, along with increase physical activity.
Start early and encourage children to be more active by making it a family affair. This can be easily accomplished by taking daily family walks.
Get your child a fitness tracker and have friendly competitions based on the number of steps taken. Limit video games, television watching and sitting around. The state of inactivity contribute to obesity. Start by clearing the house of junk food. Make the decision to limit sodas, fast food, processed foods and do not keep these items in the house. Change the way you speak about food. Instead of saying —you can’t have a soda. Say, we limit our intake of those beverages. Do not reward your child with food. Many cultures feel that rewarding a child with food is akin to love. It sets the child up to associate food with an emotional state and can have lifelong consequences. Educate your child on the difference between emotional vs physical eating. (see below). If you think you’re child is eating based on boredom, sadness, etc. talk about feelings and other ways to cope. Encourage your child to get involve in extra circular activities. The busier your child is, the healthier he/she will be. It also does wonders for the self-esteem.
Teach your child how to cope with stress. Stress eating starts in childhood and becomes a larger problem in adulthood. Meditation, mindfulness, journaling, talking are all great ways to help your child deal with stress. Encourage a healthy body image. This is especially true for girls, but boys too. It’s important for children to understand that being healthy isn’t about being skinny. It’s about making good choices, eating mindfully, consuming healthy, nutritious food and only eating when physically hungry. If your child does this, they will be less likely to struggle with obesity. Please discourage, and do not engage in comparisons to other children. You will only increase feelings of poor self-esteem and sadness. Tell your child that you love her the way she is and that she should as well. Obviously, it is important to maintain healthy habits, but not make your child feel badly.

Emotional vs Physical hunger

Emotional eaters typically have strong cravings for specific foods, e.g. chocolate. The craving usually comes on suddenly and is strong. It is almost always in response to an emotional state. For example, if you had a stressful day at work, you might over-indulge in ice cream. You might find it soothing and comforting, and hold the belief that it calms you. You might also feel guilty after eating the ice cream. This is classic emotional eating and it is harmful. Emotional eating typically begins in childhood and becomes a way of coping in adulthood. Emotional eating is often an issue for people who have the following characteristics:
people pleasers

difficulty expressing feelings

poor boundary definition

survivor of some form of abuse




lack of social support

Physical hunger has very specific indications. It comes on gradually. Your stomach rumbles. You are flexible in your food choices and not necessarily craving one specific item. It’s based in the stomach and not your mind. It doesn’t command that you eat immediately and allows you to be patient. There have been at least 4-5 hours that have passed since your last meal. Physical hunger allows you to make conscious and deliberate choices of what, how much and the type of food you consumer.

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Center for Child Development
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